Cultural Comparison of Bilingualism and Its Effects

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1664 Words
Date:  2022-03-11


People use language during their entire life for communicating their feelings and thoughts, for cultural identity, and for establishing connections with others. A rich linguistic environment surrounds people, a situation that makes them either multilingual or bilingual. According to Marian and Shook (2012), 56% of the world population speaks another language apart from their own mother tongue. The percentage is even higher in countries such as Luxembourg and Latvia in which 99% and 95% respectively of the citizens speak more than a single language. Bilingualism plays a pivotal role in different cultures of the world. It is worthy to note that the roles of bilingualism impact both positively and negatively on different cultures and individuals. This research seeks to discuss the cultural comparison of bilingualism and the effects associated with it.

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Desirable Effects of Bilingualism

Bilingualism helps to improve learning outcomes. This implies that it improves sensory and cognitive processing of information which leads to better learning outcomes. It is important to understand that a bilingual adult learns the third language better and faster than their monolingual counterparts. Bilinguals across cultures have the ability to focus and pay attention to information about a new language that they should learn while at the time reduce interference from other languages that they know. Imperatively, this ability enables a bilingual to access the vocabulary which in turn enable them to have a larger vocabulary gain. Irrespective of the cultural identity of a person, Marian and Shook (2012) reveal that bilingualism helps in conflict management in a young child. In a similar study to determine the learning outcome for bilinguals, Kovacs and Mehler (2009) did an analytical research in which babies that came from bilingual and monolingual homes were used. The babies were taught that upon hearing a tinkling sound, there would be a puppet appearing on a given part of a screen. However, during the course of the study, a different pattern was noticed for the puppet began showing on the opposite screen side. It was observed that it is only babies from bilingual environments that were able to adjust to the new occurrence. This proves that bilingualism successfully increases the learning outcomes among children.

A study by Tran, Arredondo, and Yoshida (2015) confirmed that bilinguals have improved attention process across cultural and age groups. The researchers revealed that bilinguals are usually exposed to numerous cultural circumstances, which uniquely improves their attention process. It is essential to note that cultural practices play an integral part in the development of executive and alerting regulator attention network. On the other hand, language status of an individual only contributes to executive control. To confirm this, the researchers based their research on both mono and bilingual kids from 3 nations: the US, Vietnam, and Argentina. The youngsters had an average age of three years (38.78 months) and attention network test, a non-linguistic attention paradigm, was used to determine the influence of culture and bilingualism pertaining the brain's executive control network. It is worthy to note that the study revealed that monolinguals across the three cultures had an inferior executive control attention network as compared to the bilinguals from the three countries. The findings further pinpointed that culture has an additional advantage towards the development of an alerting control attention network.

Yeganeh and Malekzadeh (2015) did an empirical research to determine bilingualism effects on English reading skills. The research was based on statistical analysis of mean before the test and post-test. Pre-tests results indicated that no statistical evidence between monolinguals and bilinguals existed. The result indicated that for the monolinguals, the average score and the standard deviation were 19.23 and 3.87 respectively. On the other hand, the bilingual group had a mean and standard deviation of 20.53 and 3.96 respectively. The results indicate that the two groups are homogeneous as far as their ability to read comprehension is concerned.

However, when the two groups were subjected to English test, the findings revealed that the monolingual group had a mean and standard deviation of 20.66 and 3.78 respectively while the bilingual group had a mean and standard deviation of 24.2 and 3.5. Clearly, there is a significant distinction between the 2 groups after they were exposed to English test. The bilingual group had a better mean, an indication that the group has better cognitive skills that the monolingual counterparts.

The findings confirm the research that bilinguals have a better cognitive flexibility and mental ability as compared to the monolingual group. This is in line with the previous research studies by Kassaian and Esmae'li (2011) that revealed the close relationship between cognitive flexibility and the vocabulary depth of a bilingual.

A cultural comparison of effects of bilingualism in adults reveals that bilingualism is instrumental in averting age-related decline. Marian and Shook (2012) note that bilingualism in adults helps to safeguard against cognitive function natural decline as well as maintaining cognitive reverse. By definition, cognitive reverse entails efficient brain network utilization so as to enhance old age brain functioning. Bilingualism achieves cognitive reverse by maintaining sharp cognitive mechanisms as well as recruiting alternative neural networks that compensate for the damaged networks due to the aging process. It is worthy to pinpoint that old bilingual individuals have executive control and improved memory as compared to adult monolinguals. Also, bilingualism protects adult speakers against diseases that accelerate cognitive decline such as Alzheimer's disease. An empirical research by Craik, Bialystok, and Freedman (2010) found out that bilinguals had a positive result for Alzheimer's disease about a time frame of 4.3 years after their monolingual counterparts were diagnosed with the same disease. This is an indication that bilingualism helps fend off Alzheimer's disease. The same study revealed that bilingual's brain region linked to Alzheimer's disease has higher physical atrophy degree as compared to that of monolinguals.

Bilinguals have improved neurological structure and processing. A study by Bialystok, Craik, and Luk (2012) revealed that bilinguals across races and cultures show improved activation in DLPFC (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), a region within the brain linked to cognitive skills such as inhibition and attention. Other regions associated with cognitive skills include ACC (anterior cingulate cortex) and bilateral supramarginal gyri. The researchers revealed that most bilingual adults have a better neural response and encoding of the fundamental frequency of sound they hear. Moreover, bilingualism is associated with a better blood flow in the brain stem which leads to better sound encoding, thus improved auditory attention. Other than neuronal activation, bilingualism alters the structure of the brain as well. Marian and Shook (2012), through their research, found out that earlier acquisition and higher proficiency in the acquired language is directly associated with a large gray matter volume in the left part of the inferior parietal cortex. Luk, Bialystok, Craik, and Grady (2011) pinpointed that bilingualism not only modifies the manner in which neurological structures handle information processing, but also change neurological structures.

Bilingualism is associated with creativity in solving both mathematical and non-mathematical problems in children. Leikin (2013), through his empirical study, used 3 groups of children to carry out their research. He picked on youngsters with an average age of 3.7 years. The groups included 13 youngsters who are Hebrew-Russian bilinguals in a bilingual school, 14 Hebrew monolingual youngsters from a monolingual school, and 10 Hebrew monolingual youngsters from a bilingual school. All the kids were subjected to picture multiple solution assignments aimed at testing general creativity as well as creating equal number assignment for mathematical creativity testing.

The result revealed that bilingualism has a great influence on the creativity of the kindergarten kids. Those who were bilinguals exhibited higher levels of creativity as compared to monolinguals. This confirmed that bilingualism positively impacts on creativity of individuals.

Adverse Effects of Bilingualism

Despite the advantages that bilingualism has, there are disadvantages that pertinent to it. Zhang, Morris, Cheng, and Yap (2013) elucidated that bilinguals have disordered thinking or speaking. The researchers noted that bilinguals are cultural cues sensitive in a native language environment, a situation that makes the speakers have a lower speech when conversing in a second language. In particular, the research revealed that disruptions to the second language occur mostly when bilinguals speak to other people who speak the same language as a first language. To demonstrate this point, Zhang et al. (2013) used Chinese-English bilinguals for validating their point. The researchers observed that when a Chinese-English bilingual spoke to Chinese faces, they spoke more hesitantly as compared to when speaking to Caucasian faces. This is a clear indication that bilingualism negatively impacts on the speech prowess of speakers. Kroll and McClain (2013) explain brain imaging pinpoints that the same neural tissue aids the functions of both languages of bilinguals. The researchers further claim that when a bilingual speaks a second language, the neural tissue activates the first language which slows the speech and the fluency of a bilingual in conversations. Kroll and McClain (2013) conclude that bilingualism is a natural phenomenon as it allows free and open interaction of cultures, languages, and cognition. However, the researchers acknowledge the fact that bilingualism has implications on the understanding of two languages as well as the communication between people in a diverse community.

Mor, Yitzhaki-Amsalem, and Prior (2015) did an empirical research to establish the combined effect that bilingualism has on ADHD. The research was based on a sample of 80 university students who were either bilingual or monolingual. The participants either had ADHD or not. The bilinguals were Russian-Hebrew whereas the monolinguals were Hebrews. The two groups carried inhibition and shifting task. It is imperative to pinpoint that Simon Arrows task and Numeric Stroop task were used as inhibitor tasks while task-switching paradigm and trail making test were used as shift task. The findings revealed that the ADHD participants had worse performance than non-ADHD counterparts. The research further revealed that bilinguals suffering from ADHD had more pronounced negative impacts as compared to non-bilinguals suffering from the same disease. Thus, bilingualism proved a burden for ADHD sufferers. This indicates that bilingualism reduces the executive functions of those suffering from ADHD, a situation that leads to a decreased performance in tasks.


Bilingualism plays an integral role as it enables people from diverse cultures to communicate their thoughts and feelings with one...

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